Friday

26th Apr 2019

Italy presses for Nato command of Libya war

  • Italy's southern island of Lampedusa is closer to Tripoli than Rome (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Wary of immigrants fleeing Libya and potential retaliation from Gaddafi, Italy is calling on its allies to bring the airstrikes under Nato command or else it will withdraw authorisation for the use of its military bases in the enforcement of the no-fly zone.

"We want Nato to take control over the operation ... We have given permission for our bases to be used and would not like to bear the political responsibility for things done by others, without our control," foreign minister Franco Frattini said during a press conference in Brussels on Monday (21 March), after a meeting with foreign ministers.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

In Turin, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also insisted it was "important that the command passes to Nato with a different coordination structure than what we have now."

Neither Germany nor Turkey are in favour of Nato's involvement in the mission. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been the first to call for strikes and who organised the "Paris summit" to lay out the operation among allies, is also unwilling to have the military alliance take over control.

A special cabinet meeting in Rome dedicated to Italy's involvement in Operation Odyssey Dawn underscored the fact that the country is not going to drop any bombs on its former colony, but only use jets for surveillance purposes.

Interior minister Roberto Maroni warned of influxes of "clandestine" migrants, stressing that a first boat had arrived to Sicily with around 200 on board. Authorities later said they were actually Egyptians, not Libyans as they claimed. Maroni's party, the anti-immigrant Lega del Nord, had already called for Italy's participation in the war to be linked to allies "blocking" any departures of migrants from Libya.

On the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, closer to Tripoli and Tunis than Rome, locals are wary about the country's participation in the military mission against Libya's dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

The prospect of refugees from Libya "is a definite risk", says the mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino de Rubeis, as Tunisian migrants arriving by boat outnumbered the regular inhabitants on the island.

"So far we haven't seen an awful lot of help from the EU, other than the intelligence from the Frontex mission which has only a few people and assets," he told this website.

"We want that Europe answers the call for help that Lampedusa and Italy are putting out."

The other risk, that Gaddafi strikes back at Italy for its involvement in the mission, would be a deja vu for some Lampedusans. In 1986, when a Nato base was on the island, Gaddafi shot two missiles towards Lampedusa, missing it only by a few miles.

De Rubeis played down the risk of this happening however. "We have men and means here in Italy who at least can guarantee us the security," he said.

But this was met with scepticism by locals. Lorenzo Costa, a music history teacher from Genoa who spends half the year on and around the island sailing said: "I am a little afraid. Gaddafi is a very strange fellow. Perhaps not necessarily Lampedusa, but there is a danger."

Meanwhile, Russia, India and China have urged the alliance to immediately stop military strikes. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the UN resolution endorsing a no-fly zone was a "medieval call to crusade."

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov also said his troops will not take part in the "adventure" against Libya because it is motivated by oil concerns. "Oil and the future exploitation of Libyan oil are the main motives driving this operation," he said in Sofia, according to AFP.

VIDEO

The EUobserver's Valentina Pop talks to the mayor of Lampedusa Bernardino de Rubeis about the impact of the Libyan war on his island.

Tunisian migrant: EU treatment is 'shameful'

Tunisian migrants stuck in harsh conditions in Lampedusa feel let down by the EU compared to the effort made by ordinary Tunisians to help refugees fleeing violence in Libya.

Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'

Following an investigation into the Dieselgate scandal, the European Parliament recommended a single commissioner should be responsible for both air quality and setting industrial standards. But only the Greens want to commit to carry out that advice.

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

The Japanese PM comes to Brussels to discuss the first results of the new EU-Japan free trade deal, plus WTO reform - a sensitive topic before he moves onto Washington to face Donald Trump.

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

News in Brief

  1. Talks to merge Germany's two largest banks collapse
  2. EU and Japan back Iran nuclear deal despite US
  3. China addresses EU concerns on belt and road plan
  4. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  5. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  6. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  7. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  8. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Migration and climate are EU's top priorities, Macron says
  2. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  3. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  4. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  5. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  6. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  7. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  8. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us